Discussing The British Police Force Acts Criminology Essay

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The British Police Force originates from 1361 with the Justice of the Peace Act; this act enabled three or four men to be appointed in each county to 'arrest, take and chastise' offenders (Emsley 1996). The industrial revolution brought about a huge migration of people from the country to live in the cities. With this came deprivation resulting in the formation of the first paid police force, also known as 'The Runners'. In 1829, Sir Robert Peel passed The Metropolitan Police Bill which changed policing a great deal.

In the history of Britain, it is documented that the police force was once a widely respected institution, but in my personal experience, although limited, I have encountered a lot of people who dislike the police force. Although most of these attitudes boil down to personal experience and opinion, it has always fascinated me that some people have such a hatred for the police, whereas others do not. I chose to base my studies on trying to discover the reasons for our lack of confidence and satisfaction in the institution of law enforcement and to try to discover whether there is any link between the level of satisfaction and certain factors which may affect this i.e. ethnicity, age, sex etc. It is a worrying development that there appears to be a growing alienation between the public and the police.

From the 1960s onwards, an extensive bulk of research has concentrated on the public's attitudes towards police. These studies make use of a broad selection of standpoints, from specific evaluations of police performance, i.e. a person's experience of the police in particular incidents, whilst other studies examine this on a larger scale, i.e. the public's satisfaction with the police in general.

According to the crown office, assaults on police officers have jumped by more than 600 in a year; there were almost 7,000 attacks on police in 2008/09. The loss of public confidence is a severe problem, without the backing of society the police can't police and without public trust it would be more and more difficult and expensive to uphold the law.

It is a worrying development that there appears to be a growing alienation between the public and the police, and my research will hopefully shed some light on the reasons for this.

This decision was reinforced by a comment made by Hammersley and Atkinson (1995), 'developing a theory is not so much an event as a process. As new data emerge, existing hypotheses may prove inadequate, the ethnographer's sense of what needs to be looked at and reported on may change, and explanations of what is going on may be supplanted by ones which seem to fit better.'

LITERATURE REVIEW

The literature review consists of a survey/analysis of the materials you have read. Its purpose is to show that you have read widely about your chosen topic, acknowledges other scholarly work and informs and contextualises your own work. Bear in mind the need to evaluate and compare the sources to which you refer. A catalogue of references has far less value than a critical appraisal of different authors.

There is a huge difference between how the police want to police, how the public want to be policed and how we are actually policed. The public are not concerned with what percentages crime has gone up or down each year, what they are interested in is being safe in the knowledge that when they go to sleep at night, their house isn't going to get broken into; or when they wake up in the morning, their car will still be parked outside and their family can walk down the street and be safe.

The British public, unlike Americans, lack the means and power to get the policing they desire because it is the Home Office and the Secretary of State who have the real power. The public, their local council or their MP have no influence over the procedure and running of their local police force. But as Sergeant (2008: 3) says 'with total control comes total responsibility', and the Home Office do not want to be seen as failing, this in turn creates the need to set deadlines and targets made by people who lack the expert experience and knowledge to make these deadlines and targets realistic. More time is spent on creating and maintaining these targets than doing what the police are actually there to do, protect the public. Of course targets can also be beneficial, in that they can make a person re-evaluate how they do what they do, but unrealistic targets can also result in serious crimes being ignored and the focus being put on minor crimes just to meet targets. It is doubtful that the fulfilment of government targets will result in better policing; it is more likely that it will end in the criminalisation and alienation of the public. Sergeant (2008) suggests that setting targets misses the point of what the public actually want; they don't want to know how many crimes are detected and cleared up, unlike the Home Office, they want the crimes to not be happening in the first place. Loveday & Reid (2003) requested members of the public to prioritize the tasks they thought the police should spend more time and effort on; crime prevention, foot patrols and community policing were the top 3. Foot patrol is one of the most important and original activities that define policing; as first stated by Sir Robert Peel, founder of the Metropolitan Police, who produced the Nine Principles of Policing in 1829. These nine principles stated that the aims of the Metropolitan Police, as stated by Sergeant (2008: 80) were:

To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

In other words, it is their role to inhibit bad behaviour leading to crime and disorder, or else harsher ways of dealing with this, i.e. military force, will come into place. A current example of this being the war in Afghanistan, where military force has been used as a result of the poorly trained and corrupt policing that was in effect before, Wolf (2006) wrote that 'A well-trained police force, that is not very corrupt, is crucial for creating a stable Afghanistan'.

To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

Therefore, even since 1829 it has been the police forces mission to keep the respect and approval of the public they are policing.

To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

That is to say, only when there is approval from the public, there is co-operation from them also.

To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

To put it simply, their duty is to recognise the inverse relationship between public approval and the use of physical force and compulsion.

To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

Again, simply put, it is their responsibility to be absolutely impartial.

To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

In other words, to realise that physical force is the last resort and that every power of persuasion and mediation should be exhausted beforehand.

To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

To attain an indivisibility between the public and the police so that their goals are the same

To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the state, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

Put another way, the police are there to police, not to retaliate or take vengeance, but to be independent of the judiciary.

To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

And finally, their role is to recognise that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder rather than the visible evidence of police action. Unfortunately in today's government, the visible evidence of police action is the action that is most rewarded.

An article published by The Times Online in 2008 quoted Harriet Sergeant, 'In order to score politically, they [the police] believe the government has sacrificed their integrity, the integrity of the force and their relationship with the community', therefore going against everything Sir Robert Peel was working for. A case in point is that head officers receive yearly bonuses based on how their men perform and how well they reach their targets, not depending on how safe their community is or how respected they are by the public they serve. Within the police force, the officers are judged and praised for the number of arrests they carry out, whereas the public judge the police by the absence of crime in their community, which causes a critical difference between how we want to be policed and how we are actually policed.

It is clear that the public has lost confidence in the police, as reported in The Economist in 2008, 'only 25 percent of the public had any confident in the government's ability to crack down on crime and violence' in 2006, also results from the 06/07 British Crime Survey showed that 50 percent of participants thought what the police did in their area could be described as good or excellent. But what about the other 50 percent? Ironically it is the people who have had no contact with police who are more likely to consider them as doing a good job, whereas, as Herbert et al (2007) states, people who have come into contact with them, both as an offender or as a victim, are a lot less likely to think that their local police are doing an excellent job. It could be seen as understandable if this were only true of offenders, seeing as they may have a grudge against the police for arresting them, but it is shocking that this opinion is held with victims too.

Another factor demonstrating the public's growing disdain for the police is the rise in complaints against them in recent years, during 1997/98 22,100 complaints were made against the police in England and Wales (Lewis 1999: 19) whereas during 2006/07 this number increased greatly to 29,637 complaints made (Sergeant 2008: 10), showing an increase of 7,000 complaints per annum in just 9 years.

Traditionally, the highest percentage of complaints are made by young males claiming to have been assaulted by an officer, as the Independent Police Complaints Commission reported, during 2006/07 35% of complaints made were by male under 17 year olds, but the same year saw a new trend occurring, 45% of complaints were made by 'law abiding, middle class, middle aged and retired people' for the behaviour they had experienced when coming into contact with the police, 'incivility, impoliteness or intolerance' were just a few examples of the public's complaints. Nick Hardwick, IPCC chairman, held that 'for the law-abiding citizen their contact with the police, whether real or perceived, can have a profound impact on their confidence in the police service as a whole' (The Telegraph Online 14/12/07).

The police are responsible for all investigation follow up and the preparation for a crime to go to court; not only do they answer emergency calls, they take statements from witnesses, they collect DNA samples, they watch CCTV footage, they get called to court to give evidence, they secure a crime scene, they patrol the roads of give tickets to motorists and they accompany prisoners in custody (Sergeant, 2008: 13), so it is easy to see why response officers do not always have time for everyone. Unfortunately, response officers only react to crime once it has taken place, whereas the public do not want the crime to happen to start with, but ultimately when something goes wrong it is a response car that people want. Therein lies the problem, there are not enough police being employed to cover the amount of calls they receive. In September 2006, there were 141,873 full time police officers in England and Wales (Home Office 2007), which is an all time high, but compared to other countries, this is still extremely low. Herbert et al (2007) stated that in 2003 there were 264 police officers in England and Wales per 100,000 of the population, compared to the European average of 357 and New York with 457. When also considering the amount of time taken up by paperwork, it is remarkable that there is any time to patrol at all.

A large part of the problem is also the conflicting targets given to the call centres and the Crown Prosecution Service. The call centres target is to deal with 90 percent of their calls within 15 seconds, which means that a lot of the time a call is logged that isn't an emergency or even a crime in order to fulfil their targets. As a consequence of this unfiltered calls are sent to officers and can quite often be a waste of time.

A response officer is always the first person on the scene of an incident, and therefore they are the people who representative the criminal justice system as a whole, the result of this is that when other parts of the system fail, it is the police that are blamed for these shortcomings. In 2006, there were 5,428,000 crimes reported to the police, as exposed by the Daily Mail Online (29/11/07). Of that amount, 1,475,000 were solved by the police. 693,250 (47%) were then charged or summonsed to court. It is after this that the police involvement is minimal; it is the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who then decides whether a case is worth taking in front of a judge. Of the 693,250 cases brought to the Crown Prosecution Service, 287,450 were then dropped or 'No Further Action' taken, leaving 406,000 cases taken to court, of which 74,000 were sent to prison. Considering the huge amount of crimes reported, this is such a small quantity that it is easy to see why people have no faith in the criminal justice system.

As a consequence of problems such as prison overcrowding, more crimes are punished with lesser penalties, for instance they are given fines, community service, fixed penalties etc. The Daily Mail article reported that of the 1,475,000 crimes that the police solved in 2006, 350,000 simply received a caution, included in this number were 7,700 burglars, 57,000 violent attackers, 28% of sex offenders which included 24 rapists, all received a caution.

Former shadow home secretary, David Davis commented that 'victims of crime want to see real justice. This involves offenders being prosecuted, punished and rehabilitated. They do not want to see a slap on the wrist or a fine that half of them do not pay'.

The process in which an offender is taken to court relies on the relationship between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. The police have the responsibility of investigating the cases, interviewing any witnesses there may be, and gathering forensic evidence to present to the Crown Prosecution Service who will then decide if there is enough evidence to bring the case to court. Unfortunately, as with the police, the Crown Prosecution Service also operate under the pressure of government targets, however the targets set out for the Police are in direct conflict with those of the CPS. While the police are judged by the amount of people they arrest, the CPS is judged by the proportion and amount of successful convictions they gain. On the face of it this target sounds reasonable but inevitably in order to meets their targets, Crown Prosecution Service lawyers pick and choose the cases which they are confident they will win. This means that the CPS call on the police to provide masses of evidence, which takes time and effort that could be used out on the streets. The CPS is not accountable for the amount of time they require from the police, yet after the time taken to gather all the evidence, the CPS can still drop the case, and it is then the police officers who have to tell the victims that the case has been NFA'd (No further Action) and not the CPS. As Sergeant (2008) rightly states, 'Unfortunately it is the criminal justice system as a whole by which the police are too often judged'.

METHODOLOGY

Quotes for questionnaire use

Bryman (2004) believed that 'only knowledge gained through experience and the senses is acceptable' in other words, a theory or hypothesis must be subjected to testing before it can be considered a fact. With this in mind, I decided that purely library based study would not do my research question justice. I chose to use questionnaires to find out what people really thought about the police force in and around their area, this method appealed to me the most because of its independency, since I would not be interacting with the people I was questioning in any way.

There are many advantages of using questionnaires in empirical research, the main being that this method produces a large amount of quantitative data for analysis, and given the period of time available for this research I felt that this method would provide me with the most amount of information to work from. Questionnaires are also cheap to administer seeing as the only cost incurred would be printing and maybe travel. Self completion questionnaires also reduce the risk of bias and influence as they provide greater anonymity for the respondent. The key characteristic of social surveys, i.e. questionnaires, is that the same information can be collected from each person in the chosen sample, and it is easier to gain a larger sample size then with face-to-face interviews and other techniques. Questionnaires have advantages over some other types of surveys as they do not require as much effort from the questioner as verbal or telephone surveys, and depending on the format chosen, they usually have standardized answers that make it simple to compile data and easier to analyze. Although, of course, this can also have an adverse effect as standardized answers may frustrate participants, for example, a group of questions I chose used set answers of 'strongly agree, agree, disagree' and 'strongly disagree', I chose not to add 'neither agree nor disagree' because I did not want to end up with 30 undecided answers, as this would not help me at all. Although this then runs the risk of being seen as influencing the persons answer, I instead chose to think of it as helping the participant be more decisive! There were a few disadvantages to consider when choosing my method, questionnaires tend to be short and the questions have to be simple to minimize the chances of misunderstanding. The response rates can also be low depending on the sample chosen.

When choosing my sample I considered a few different methods; my initial thoughts were to go into a shopping centre in a highly populated town and ask the general public to complete my questionnaire, this gives the advantage of having no bias towards the participants. I decided against this because if I was to use this method this would limit the respondents to those there at that given time, which may not represent the views of other members of society in such an area and therefore I would not be able to generalize from my sample unless I was to repeat this method at different times of day and several times per week, which of course would be very time consuming.

The next method of sampling to be considered was to take advantage of the University of Northampton intranet and electronically send questionnaires to students on the internal email, which would be a lot less time consuming and would solve the problem of having to go out and find participants. However, there were 2 issues with this method; firstly, this would narrow the capability to generalize from the responses, as the views of 40 students may well be largely dissimilar to those of a whole community. The second issue to address was the response rates tend to be low and it would be difficult to identify the characteristics of those who did not reply and the effect they may have had on the findings.

Finally, I decided on a sampling method known as network or snowball sampling. This is used when there is no list to obtain a sample of the population from. Respondents are found through referral, such as through friends and family. This technique has its merits because the personal recommendations are made by people who know the experimenter and the participants and therefore there is a level of trust gained through this, it also leads to a much higher response rate as there is a personal interest in completing and returning the questionnaire. The main problem associated with this system is that there is a chance of the participants having had similar experiences with the police and therefore this may bias the data gathered. The way to solve this potential problem is to have several starting off points for the snowballing to originate from and consequently more than one network of contributors is acquired. I chose to start my snowballing in 4 different places; work, university, family and friends, each participant received the same questionnaire, accompanied by the same covering letter, explaining why I was carrying out the study, the details of my course, guarantees that they will be kept anonymous, my contact details and instructions for completing the questionnaire . I work part time at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, as a medical secretary and my job involves a lot of interaction with a wide range of people, including doctors, managers, patients and other admin workers. I chose to start off here because of the broad variety of people to which I could present with questionnaires. Every person I asked also took a questionnaire away to ask a friend or acquaintance outside of the hospital to complete. This amounted to 20 completed questionnaires being returned to me. Next, I asked 5 family members to complete the questionnaire, as before each went on to refer someone else outside of the family. I repeated this method for 10 friends and 5 class mates at university. In total, my sample size amounted to 60 questionnaires being returned, completed.

My research was not without problems, since originally I was planning on undergoing participant observation, as at the start of my study I had a close connection with a member of the Metropolitan Police. Participant observation is defined by Hammersley and Atkinson (1995) as a method that entails the ethnographer involving oneself, openly or surreptitiously, in the public's normal day to day lives for a large period of time, observing what goes on, listening to what is said, basically making a note of anything that could give a solution to the issues that are the focus of the research. Spindler and Spindler (1992: 32) stipulated that 'knowing what natives know is not enough', a researcher may be able to discover and convey things about individuals and groups which they themselves cannot see, as well as things that neither the researcher nor participants can see at the beginning of the study. The researcher can also balance between respect for the participants account and scepticism and an outsider's perspective.

Spindler and Splinder (1992: 124) held that 'only the human observer can be alert to divergences and subtleties that may prove more important than the data produced by any predetermined categories of observation or any instrument', meaning that only a person who observes with no bias as to what they want out of the results will get better findings, since an instrument will only measure what it is supposed to measure, and therefore will not see any other important subtleties that are significant to the study. It is this particular reason that I was disappointed to not have the chance to carry out my observational research. I had been given the opportunity to accompany a police officer on patrol for an evening, to observe and experience how the public react towards them. This research would have been extremely useful, and very interesting to carry out, but unfortunately the connection was broken and disappointingly I was unable to implement this part of my study.

*MAIN CHAPTERS SETTING OUT FINDINGS/ARGUMENTS

The structuring process involved in determining how best to present your work requires a lot of planning. You need to decide the purpose of each section of your work, how important it is and how much space it warrants. You will also have to make important decisions about how to link chapters and how to title them so as to give reader suitable 'signposts' introducing the new themes and ideas. You really need decide on your main chapter sections before you start writing the text, but be prepared to modify them as the writing progresses.

The ordering of the contents within each chapter is a continuation of the process of structuring the dissertation as a whole. In both cases, you are looking for ways of breaking your information down into themes which flow in a logical way to construct a flowing, progressive narrative.

Empirical dissertations:

If doing an empirical dissertation, you will obviously have to devote a chapter to reporting your results. After restating the problem, you should assess how the results fit in with existing knowledge. If your project set out to test certain hypotheses, this section should demonstrate whether they were or were not supported by the evidence. Any deficiencies in the research design, or limitations of the study, should be clearly indicated at this point.

*CONCLUSIONS

This short but vital section completes the thread started with the Introduction. You may well end up writing the Introduction last in order to maintain consistency with your Conclusions! Before you write this section, read through the whole work and make a note of the key points. Do not introduce new data into the Conclusion. If it important enough to be included, it should already be elsewhere. Readers who want a quick idea of what your research is about will look at the Abstract, possibly the Introduction and certainly at the Conclusions. So keep all these sections short and informative. Be self-critical and do not claim more for your work than it justifies.

APPENDICES (if required)

Appendices (singular: Appendix) are where you put material which is only ancillary to the main text. They may appropriately be used for tables, reports or other information incidental to the main thesis. They may also be used as a repository for documents such as the forms used in a particular legal context. The material used in appendices should be clearly labelled and referenced.

DO COVER LETTER

Questionnaire

Are you:

Male Female

How old are you?

15-25 26-35 36-45 46+

What is your ethnic origin?

White

Black

Mixed

Asian

Chinese

Decline to specify

Other (please specify)

What is your occupation?

Where do you live?

Have you ever come in to contact with the Police?

Yes No (go to question 9)

If yes, were you the:

Victim

Offender

Other (please specify)

Would you describe this contact as:

Positive (go to 8a.) Negative (go to 8b.)

8a. If positive, please give reasons:

8b. If negative, please give reasons:

How recently can you remember seeing a police officer on the beat in your area?

Don't know

Within the last week

Within the last month

Within the last year

Never

How confident are you that the police would catch an offender for each of these crimes:

Burglary Very confident

Confident

Not confident

No chance

Car theft Very confident

Confident

Not confident

No chance

Street mugging Very confident

Confident

Not confident

No chance

Sex crime Very confident

Confident

Not confident

No chance

Assault Very confident

Confident

Not confident

No chance

If you are not confident, which of the following best describes the reason why you are not confident about the police catching an offender?

Don't know

Police have too few resources

Too few police

Police spend too much time on paperwork

Police not interested

Police incompetent

None of these

State your own

Which one or two of these do you think would do most to make you feel safer on the streets in your area?

More police on the streets

More CCTV cameras

Fining the parents

Better street lighting

On the spot fines

More tagging

None of these

Don't know

State your own

How much to do you agree to the following statements:

It is reassuring to know that police are around.

Strongly Agree

Agree

Disagree

Strongly disagree

In your town, police officers have a positive influence.

Strongly Agree

Agree

Disagree

Strongly disagree

When the police get involved in situations, it makes matters worse.

Strongly Agree

Agree

Disagree

Strongly disagree

Police officers are often arrogant.

Strongly Agree

Agree

Disagree

Strongly disagree

I feel comfortable in the presence of police officers.

Strongly Agree

Agree

Disagree

Strongly disagree

The job of a police officer is very important to our society.

Strongly Agree

Agree

Disagree

Strongly disagree

The police are always courteous when dealing with the general public.

Strongly Agree

Agree

Disagree

Strongly disagree

The Police discriminate against young people.

Strongly Agree

Agree

Disagree

Strongly disagree

Thank you for your time,

Sarah Bassett.

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